In May of this year, undefeated WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol entered the to defend his portion of the World Light-Heavyweight championship against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the man regarded by many as the best fighter in the world pound for pound, who had recently fully unified the Super-Middleweight division to become Undisputed world champion. Although Bivol went into the fight unbeaten and was a longtime champion, the champion was treated almost as if he were the challenger.
This was due largely to Alvarez’ standing in the sport and for better or worse fighters who are fortunate to covet such a position often take advantage of what are seen by some fans as perks, whether it be in contract negotiations and/or in the ability to dictate terms including, but not limited to at times who they fight, when they fight, and unfortunately for the fan/consumer how said bouts will be made available to the public. While some have used such a position to avoid challenges by choosing to not face fighters deemed as competitive threats, to his credit, even though Alvarez hand picked Bivol as his opponent in an attempt to begin the process of trying to unify a second division, he picked arguably the most dangerous fighter the Light-Heavyweight division has to offer both in terms of overall Boxing skill and punching power.
As most know, Bivol used those attributes to his advantage as he tactically out boxed Alvarez over twelve rounds to earn a convincing twelve round unanimous decision to retain his championship for the ninth time. While Bivol’s performance was one that was of the tactical/pure Boxing form, he dictated how the fight was fought from start to finish in a bout that this observer felt he dominated.
In some ways, Bivol’s victory over Alvarez reminded me of a fight that I covered in September 2001 between Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad in what was a Middleweight world championship unification bout. It reminded me of that fight for one similarity. Much like Bivol, Hopkins had held his version of the World Middleweight championship for several years dominating most of his opposition prior to facing Trinidad. Despite this, there were several, particularly casual Boxing fans who did not know much about Hopkins and treated him with little regard. This was due to Trinidad being one of the biggest stars in the sport at the time and being more well known outside of the true Boxing enthusiast.
When the two met inside Madison Square Garden in the weeks that followed the 9/11 attacks, Hopkins dominated Trinidad before knocking him down in the twelfth round and stopping him. While much like Bivol’s decision win over Alvarez, Hopkins’ knockout of Trinidad was viewed as the best win and a career definer for him, the similarities may not end there.
Despite his win over Trinidad and his status afterward as unified Middleweight world champion, it took Hopkins a few more years to get the acclaim and respect he had earned that night in Madison Square Garden. Most would say that it was not until he knocked out Oscar De La Hoya in September 2004 to fully unity the Middleweight division that Hopkins finally was regarded as the great fighter he was and ultimately the Hall of Famer he is today.
Although that delayed recognition for Hopkins can be explained as the politics that be in the sport and others including promoters and networks working against him, some might say that decades later, Dmitry Bivol now finds himself in a similar position. While Boxing is truly the theater of the unexpected and the best unscripted drama sports has to offer, in my view, there are likely some who either because of biases related to being a fan of those with other vested interests that would say that what happened when Bivol beat Alvarez that the outcome was not in the long-term plan for the latter’s career.
Nonetheless, Bivol did what he had to do, retained his title, and could well meet Alvarez again down the line. Before that can happen however, the undefeated champion will make the tenth defense of his WBA crown when he faces undefeated former WBO Super-Middleweight world champion Gilberto Ramirez on Saturday, November 5th at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, U. A. E. The fight, which can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN is frankly one of the most dangerous fights that Bivol could have taken following his victory over Alvarez. Ramirez, unbeaten in forty-four professional fights, has thirty knockouts in his career and will enter this fight having scored five straight knockouts. The challenger also goes into this fight as the WBA’s number one contender.
While Bivol had to take this fight per Ramirez’ status as a mandatory challenger, it is commendable that the champion did not spend too much time exploring options to delay this bout from taking place as unfortunately sometimes happens throughout the sport both due to the politics that be in the sport as well as potentially more lucrative opportunities that might be available to a fighter. One could argue that from a public perception standpoint that Bivol ‘s standing in the sport will be further elevated if he can defeat Ramirez.
In terms of how this fight might be fought, it is important to keep in mind that both Bivol and Ramirez are boxer/punchers that can do a little of everything inside the ring. What this bout will come down to in this observer’s eyes is whether or not the challenger will be able to bring the fight to Bivol. One thing that stood out in Bivol’s victory over Alvarez is at no point in that fight did the champion appear uncomfortable and not in the position to dictate how that fight was fought. This also was visible by Bivol’s not allowing himself to be baited into exchanges with Alvarez, particularly when Alvarez chose to sit on the ropes and motion for Bivol to step in and attack. The champion instead chose to remain at a distance where he could hit Alvarez, but remain in control of how the fight was fought.
Although Gilberto Ramirez is also a crafty fighter much like Alvarez, he will nerd to avoid some of the mistakes Alvarez made throughout that fight. While Ramirez is naturally bigger than Alvarez, the task is largely the same for him against Bivol. He must look to apply pressure on Bivol early and make him uncomfortable. Ramirez must be tactical in his approach as Bivol does have good hand speed and is an accurate counter puncher.
Bivol has proven to be quite the tactician in recent fights after beginning his career with a string of knockouts similar to that of current Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin. Even though a pure Boxing style with an emphasis on technique is not always fan friendly, when executed well it can prove to be very effective and difficult for opponents to combat as Bivol has shown in recent fights. Even though the champion still likely has the punching power to get an opponent out of there if an opportunity arises, it is logical to expect that Bivol will try to implement a similar strategy as he has used in recent fights in this title defense against Ramirez.
The winner of this fight will likely find himself in good position as 2023 approaches with two realistic options. Option one could be a bout with Alvarez who insists on returning to the Light-Heavyweight division with his eye particularly on a possible rematch with Bivol. Perhaps more enticing however, could be the second option, which would be to try and unify the division. With a lot on the line for both fighters going into this fight and possibly coming out of it, it comes down to two fighters meeting in the ring with Bivol’s WBA World Light-Heavyweight championship at stake. We will see what happens on Saturday, November 5th.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Bivol vs. Ramirez takes place on Saturday, November 5th at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, U. A. E. The bout as well as it’s full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 10AM ET/7AM PT with Before the bell, which will include preliminary bouts on the card. This will be followed by the main card beginning at 1:30PM ET/10:30AM PT (U.S. Times). For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
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